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Beech Marten (Martes foina)

Diputación de Málaga

Beech Marten (Martes foina)

Identification

It is a medium sized carnivore (head-body length 38  to 55 cm), with a slender and elongated body, short legs and a long hairy tail (22 to 28 cm). The head is narrow with a wedge-shaped snout. It has large eyes and protruding rounded ears with white edges. Its feet and hands are large. It has a reddish brown coat, somewhat lighter on the head and darker on the legs and tail. It exhibits a very characteristic white bib in the throat, shaped like a fork, which reaches the front legs. It is a very agile animal, with great climbing ability. It does not dig. Males are bigger than females.

Where does it live?

It is a forest species linked to dense wooded masses with rocky outcrops. It is present in pine forests, holm oaks, cork oaks, riverbank forests and dense wooded scrub areas. We can even find it in agricultural areas and peri-urban environments or human altered landscapes with forested and rocky islands where it seeks refuge. 

How does it live?

It is a very solitary dusk and nocturnal animal (except during the mating period). Its diet is really adaptable to what its habitat seasonally offers. It is a very agile hunter of birds and small mammals that it consumes especially in spring and summer. In autumn it also eats wild fruits, reptiles and insects. Its territory can rise up to 3 km2..  It makes burrows in tree stumps or cracks between stones. It has plenty of this in its territory and interchangeably uses it. In winter it becomes more anthropophilic and often uses cavities in abandoned buildings or rural homes.

How does it reproduce?

The beech martens are polygamous. A male's territory indistinctly includes one of several females. The mating period occurs in summer and births happens the following year from spring to summer. Births usually take place from 8 to 9 months between copulation and the start of pregnancy, which lasts only a couple of months. There is only one litter a year of 2 to 5 offspring. The breeding burrows are set in tree holes or cracks between stones. They are sexually mature at the age of three years old. Their life expectancy is about 10 to 12 years.

Where can we see it in Málaga?

This species is present, common and abundant all over the province.  It can be observed in almost all the Malaga forests, being very common for example in the Bermeja pine forest as well as the Real and Palmitera mountain ranges. In the Great Path it can be observed on every forest stages; and they are the majority.  

Curious facts

Beech martens have been persecuted by game wardens in a secular way because they are considered harmful, although in reality they are great rodent hunters. When they lived close to humans, they provided a great service, especially in agricultural and peri-urban areas. They were also hunted for the value of their skin, which, being very similar to that of the marten (carnivore only present in northern Spain), reached very attractive prices. Nowadays, the beech marten is an expanding animal, whose populations increase due to the abandonment of forest masses and the decline of the traditional rural world. The proof of this is that it is one of the most frequently run over mammals seen on Málaga secondary roads.  

Similar species

It is an unmistakable species. The weasel, which is the carnivore that most looks like it, is much smaller and its tail ends in a black tip.

Routes where it can be observed

Animal Life > Mammals
Medios
Land
Phenology
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Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation